Hi, Dr. Laura! I am always so enlightened and inspired by your advice, but I can't seem to find much about helping parents become better models for their kids. I have a few key areas where I know I need to grow and progress in order to properly model for my kids. I seem to have inherited some very undesirable traits from my father's parenting style. While I can clearly see them, I'm at a loss for fixing them. Can you help?
1. I am a bit of a grudge holder. If I get upset at my son (nearly 5) for being challenging, I start holding a grudge, instead of connecting and showing unconditional love.
2. Control issues. I want to give DS as much freedom and choice as possible, but I have trouble getting "yes" to be my go-to response.
3. Positive attitude- sometimes I just can't even fake it! This affects my ability to give benefit of the doubt and see behaviors as learning versus being naughty.
Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks!
I have a book suggestion if you are interested and have not read yet. Radical Parenting by Blanton(I think that is how his name is spelled). I'm with ya mama. I think we all have some traits we'd rather not have and need adjusting.
Dear Mama Amie,
I hear you. Our ability to be the parents we want to be, and to model the kind of person we want our child to become, is the hardest part of parenting! The bad news is, we all have some key areas where we need to grow in order to be the parents we want to be. The good news is, what better motivation than our love for our children?
While everyone's core wounds are different, for most of us it comes down to learning how to regulate our own emotions. In other words, fear is what causes control issues. And when we are hurt, or scared, or sad, it's hard to have a positive attitude. In fact, usually we find those feelings so unbearable that we lash out -- either directly, or in our thoughts. Holding on to those negative thoughts about someone else and how it's all their fault is known as holding a grudge. So all of what you are describing can be healed by working with your own emotions.
The way to do that is to let yourself feel the emotions, without taking action. When we allow ourselves to feel any feeling, that emotion begins to fade away and evaporate. That's the healing that is necessary. But if you've ever tried to simply sit with sadness, or pain, or fear, and breathe and accept it, and love yourself through it, you'll know that it's really hard to do. Your body will suddenly, urgently, need to find a screen or some food (flight or freeze). Or you'll start thinking about how this is someone else's fault (that's fight.) If you tell yourself it isn't an emergency, you're safe, let's sit right here and breathe, you might start to cry. Or you might feel like you're about to throw up. It's pretty awful. And hard to not give in to the urgency that is telling you to take action or draw a conclusion.
BUT once you do this a few times, what you'll find is that you feel better. More free. Less reactive to your child. Less likely to hold a grudge. More likely to say yes and keep your sense of humor. A good role model, and also you can help your child process emotion better. You can even think more positively, so you start seeing things differently, and you don't get triggered and have so many challenging emotions.
Of course, this is VERY hard work. Many people find it is too hard to do on their own, so they see a therapist or coach. And it does take years to de-install those triggers that get you upset. But the good news is that you can start right now, today, not acting when you're triggered. And every time you don't act when you're triggered, the triggers lose power, and they begin to fade.
I suggest you also find ways to keep yourself on track daily. Research shows that meditation actually changes your brain and makes you less reactive. Inspirational audios can be very helpful, as can books that keep you positive (that you can read parts of here and there.) My emails, which are sent out three or four times a week, are designed to support parents in working through their own issues. You can sign up to get these posts as for free on any page of the http://AhaParenting.com website.
Bottom line, it seems complicated, but it isn't. It's our job to grow up and do the hard thing -- act from love. Every time we resist acting from our fear or hurt or sadness, but instead let ourselves feel those feelings and heal them, we allow more love to rush in. In fact, I believe our choice to resist acting on our upsets and instead choose to act on love actually creates more love in the world. So you could think of it this way: We make a choice every minute. Love or fear? Choose love.